The Eagles Biography

Formed in Los Angeles, California, USA, in 1971, this highly successful country/rock unit was formed by musicians drawn from singer Linda Ronstadt’s backing group. Of the original quartet, Bernie Leadon (Bernard Leadon, 19 July 1947, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; guitar/vocals) boasted the most prodigious pedigree, having embraced traditional country music with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, before gaining significant rock experience as a member of Hearts And Flowers, Dillard And Clark and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Randy Meisner (b. 8 March 1946, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, USA; bass/vocals) was formerly of Poco and Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band; Glenn Frey (b. 6 November 1948, Detroit, Michigan, USA; guitar/vocals) had recorded as half of Longbranch Pennywhistle; while Don Henley (b. Donald Hugh Henley, 22 July 1947, Gilmer, Texas, USA; drums/vocals) had led Texas-based aspirants Shiloh. Such pedigrees ensured interest in the new venture, which was immediately signed to David Geffen’s nascent Asylum Records label.

The band’s 1972 debut album The Eagles, recorded in London under the aegis of producer Glyn Johns, contained ‘Take It Easy’, co-written by Frey and Jackson Browne, and ‘Witchy Woman’, both of which reached the US Top 20 and established the quartet’s meticulous harmonies and relaxed, but purposeful, country rock sound. Critical reaction to 1973’s Desperado, an ambitious concept album based on a western theme of various outlaws (with a famous Henry Diltz cover shoot), firmly established the band as leaders in their field and contained several of their most enduring compositions, including the pleadingly emotional title track. The follow-up, On The Border, reasserted the unit’s commerciality. ‘Best Of My Love’ became their first US number 1 while new member Don Felder (b. Donald William Felder, 21 September 1947, Gainesville, Florida, USA; guitar/vocals), drafted from David Blue’s backing group in March 1974, considerably bolstered the Eagles’ sound.

The reshaped quintet attained superstar status with 1975’s One Of These Nights, the title track from which also topped the US charts. This platinum-selling album included ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, now considered a standard on Gold format radio, and the anthemic ‘Take It To The Limit’. The album also established the Eagles as an international act; each of these tracks had reached the UK Top 30, but the new-found pressure proved too great for Leadon who left the line-up in December 1975. He subsequently pursued a low-key career with the Leadon-Georgiades band. Leadon’s replacement was Joe Walsh (b. Joseph Fidler Walsh, 20 November 1947, Wichita, Kansas, USA), former lead guitarist with the James Gang and a successful solo artist in his own right. His somewhat surprising induction was tempered by the knowledge that he shared the same manager as his new colleagues. The choice was ratified by the powerful Hotel California, which topped the US album charts for eight weeks and spawned two number 1 singles in the title track and ‘New Kid In Town’. The set has become the Eagles’ most popular collection, selling nine million copies worldwide in its year of release alone, as well as appearing in many ‘all-time classic’ albums listings.

A seasonal recording, ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’, was the quintet’s sole recorded offering for 1978 and internal ructions the following year resulted in Meisner’s departure. His replacement, Timothy B. Schmit (b. Timothy Bruce Schmit, 30 October 1947, Oakland, California, USA), was another former member of Poco, but by this point the Eagles’ impetus was waning. The Long Run (1979) was generally regarded as disappointing, despite containing a fifth US number 1 in ‘Heartache Tonight’, and a temporary hiatus taken at the end of the decade became a fully fledged break in 1982 when long-standing disagreements could not be resolved. Henley, Frey and Felder began solo careers with contrasting results, while Walsh resumed the path he had followed prior to joining the band.

Although latterly denigrated as representing 70s musical conservatism and torpidity, the Eagles’ quest for perfection and committed musical skills rightly led to them becoming one of the era’s leading acts. It was no surprise that the final line-up of the band (Henley, Frey, Walsh, Felder and Schmit) eventually re-formed in the mid-90s, after months of speculation. The resulting album proved that they were still one of the world’s most popular acts, even though it was a hastily assembled live collection. Their 1994/5 tour of the USA was (apart from the Rolling Stones’ parallel tour) the largest-grossing of the year. The ensuing Hell Freezes Over album of the tour included two new studio singles, ‘Get Over It’ and ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’. In 1998, the band was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. During the ceremony, former members Leadon and Meisner rejoined the existing line-up on stage, but neither was present on the subsequent reunion tours. Felder was fired from the band in February 2001, leading to a number of lawsuits being filed.

With the over indulgences of the 70s behind them, it was an exciting prospect when an album of new Eagles songs, written with the patina of age, was announced in 2007. Unfortunately, the sprawling double album Long Round Out Of Eden proved to be a soulless and clinical exercise in targeting the band’s aging fanbase, with echoes of their past glories sprinkled liberally throughout the inflated running time. In the interim, the public had been more than happy to continue to purchase their greatest hits packages. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 now competes with Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the biggest-selling album of all time, with 29 million units in the US alone.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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